All Things Bright and Beautiful

It is no secret that I enjoy photographing the little things.  This hydro-sapien loves being able to see and share, the almost microscopic world that exists under water, with land dwellers.  I have a deep appreciation for all creatures, and so, as I have been contemplating how to share some of the tiny critters I recently encountered, Cecil Frances Alexander’s words keep coming to mind.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.–Cecil Frances Alexander


“All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small” immediately brings to mind the fabulous nudibranchs that I search for on every dive.  Lately, in California, we have seen a scarcity of these critters.  In the past few weeks, however, I have seen lots of nudibranch eggs, and lots of tiny nudibranchs.  The image above is of a Hopkins Rose (Okenia rosacea, a nudibranch measuring about 1cm.  It is not the most common, but I definitely think it is one of the most beautiful.  Below is a Porter’s Chromodorid (Mexichromis porterae about 2cm long).


Since there are many very small nudibranchs right now, I have mostly photographed critters less than 1cm. This tiny Three -lined Aeolid (Flabellina trilineata) was only 5 or 6 millimeters long.


And its look-alike cousin, the Horned Aeolid (Hermissendra crassicornis,) was about the same size, although both species can get up to 36mm or larger.


And on an even smaller scale, I have spent a good amount of time looking through the seaweed for isopods and larvae.  This tiny critter is just a few millimeters.


Some of my favorites are the skeleton shrimp, isopods that aren’t really shrimp, but bear the nickname because of their hilarious antics and the way they move around. They look like animated skeletons.  This one is pregnant with eggs, and when they hatch, the babies will cling to her body until they are nearly half her size.


You may have to look closely to see them in the image below;  Momma is covered with her offspring clinging to her antenea, back, jaw, and every other appendage.


Another fun find for me this week was a family of decorator crabs.  They were very hard to photograph because of the movement of the water, and all the fish that were desperately trying to take a bite of them while I exposed them to the camera. They are covered in all kinds of growth such as sponges, anemones and hydroids.  You can see the one below if you look for it’s eye which is about a third of the way down and a third of the way over from the right.  It looks like it has a long nose made of a white flowering plant with a brown leaf.  This one was less than a square centimeter.


With the exception of the skeleton shrimp with all her babies, all these images were taken in the last few weeks in California.  The ocean is coming alive again after several months of quiet time.  I am thrilled to see all the new life and awed by the creatures great and small living in the waters of the California coast.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website,, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here atwaterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

California Divin’

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray

I’ve been for a dive, on a winter’s day.

I’ll be warm and dry, when I get back to L A,

But now I’m California divin’  on such a winter’s day.

I spend a good amount of time on this blog talking about the exotic animals I have seen all over the far reaches of the world.  But truly, I spend the majority of my diving time along the coast of California.  These temperate waters host some of the most interesting creatures in the world, and the topography is unique and beautiful.  One of the first things my non-diving friends ask is if it is green and murky in our California waters.  I am here to tell you, that the coast of California can rival the most pristine diving in the tropics.

Pink and Orange cup corals cover this pinnacle near Catalina Island

Pink and Orange cup corals cover this pinnacle near Catalina Island

The images above and below show some of the corals that can be found along the California coast.  Above are pink and orange cup corals covering a pinnacle at Farnsworth Banks near Catalina Island. The photo below shows part of a wall there called “Yellow Wall” and also shows some purple hydrocoral, which is found in just a few dive sites along the California coast.  These two images were taken just minutes apart, showing the diversity that can be found on just one site.


 Another gem of California diving are the oil rigs.  There are only a few rigs that divers can visit, and since there can be current and depths of up to 700 feet, the oil rigs are for advanced divers only. The structure under the oil rigs provides an artificial reef for hundreds of animals.  The structure is encrusted with life, and great schools of fish and sea lions enjoy life under the rigs as well.



The Channel Islands are a favorite dive destination for local divers as well as world travelers.  Santa Barbara Island boasts a sea lion rookery where the young curious pups will come out to play around and with scuba divers.


Anacapa Island is loved by photographers for its macro subjects such as nudibranchs and amphipods.

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

This pregnant skeleton shrimp is one of the amphipods commonly found in California

This pregnant skeleton shrimp is one of the amphipods commonly found in California

Catalina Island has a large population of blue-striped, orange gobys commonly called the Catalina Goby.

Catalina Goby

Catalina Goby

Beautiful fish of all different colors can be found in dive sites all around Southern California, not to mention our own state marine fish, the Geribaldi.

A Geribaldi and a red sculpin (rockfish or scorpion fish) look curiously at the diver with a camera.

A Geribaldi and a red Cabezon  look curiously at the diver with a camera.

But the one defining feature of diving in California is the beautiful kelp forests.  In many ways the kelp reminds me of a forest in a fairy tale.


The King's Forest

The King’s Forest

The great thing about diving in California is it doesn’t matter if it’s Winter or Summer.  The diving is great year ’round.  The water is temperate and requires adequate protection.  I recommend a 7mm wetsuit in the Summer and late Fall, and a drysuit during the winter months.  And oh, how I love diving California in the Winter months.

California divin’ on such a winter’s day.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website,, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.

The Wee Beasties of Anilao

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

Wi’ bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,

Wi’ murd’ring pattle!


I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!
Hairy Frogfish, yawning
Hairy Frogfish, yawning
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Blue Ribbon Eel

Blue Ribbon Eel

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell –
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
Ambon Scorpion fish

Ambon Scorpion fish

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
Candy Crab  (Soft Coral Crab)

Candy Crab (Soft Coral Crab)

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Hairy Squat Lobster

Hairy Squat Lobster

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
–Robert Burns  (To a Mouse)

The Night Before Fishmas

I subscribe to a local newsletter for divers and this was published there this week.  It is a lot of fun, so I thought I would share it here.  Courtesy of Ken Kurtis, Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.

With inspiration from (and apologies to) Clement Clarke Moore . . .

‘TWARS the days before Christmas, and all through the sea
not a creature was stirring, with the exception of me.
The stockings were hung on the kelp fronds with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would swim there.

The fish were nestled all snug in their cracks,
while visions of baitballs called to them as snacks.
And Mama in her beanie, and I in my hood,
were entering for a dive we thought would be good.

When off in the distance there arose such a splash,
I  parked Mama on shore so I could make a dash.
Inflated my BC, I kicked on out,
squinted my eyes to see what this was about.

The moon on the breast of the rippling waves
gave the luster of shimmer above the fish caves.
When, what to my salt-stung eyes should appear,
but eight Black Sea Bass with a boat in the rear.

With a little old diver, gearing up lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
Down went the anchor and up went the flag,
and Nick arranged fish toys inside his bag.

But Nick had no buddy, and then he saw me,
when he motioned to join him, I accepted with glee.
We completed a buddy check and started on down,
following the kelp to the bottom we did bound.

He was dressed in a drysuit, from his neck to his foot,
but his fins were all ratty from the pounding they took.
A bundle of fish treats he had in his sack,
plus bigger gifts that would keep things on track.

He was chubby and plump, as we all get with age,
but I was happy to join him on this aquatic stage.
A wink of his eye meant we had to run
because there was so much work to be done.

He spoke not a word, since we were underwater,
and left gifts for the fish, not missing a quarter.
But I could tell from his demeanor, he wasn’t quite done,
of the gifts to the fish, there was an additional one.

So he gave me a sign and lay his finger to his nose,
and giving a nod, to the surface we rose.
As he surveyed the water, he gave me a smile,
and I had a good feeling we’d be done in a while.

Nick took off his mask, and waved his right hand,
water bubbling and shimmering above the calm sand.
He had just created the best gift of all,
a Marine Protected Area, and the fish were enthralled.

Now they could swim, and with much less fear,
of the bubble-blowers descending in new diving gear.
Fish stocks would be healthy, their numbers would grow,
St. Nick works his wonders in water and snow.

With his task completed, Nick kicked to his boat,
Got out of his dive gear, and put on his coat.
Up came the anchor and down came the flag,
He’d done good work but he didn’t brag.

His eyes gave a twinkle, to his Sea Bass he whistled,
And away they all jetted, with the speed of a missile.
But I heard him exclaim, as he slipped out of sight,
“Merry Fish-mas to all, and to all a good night!”


Let it Bee!


THE BEE – by Emily Dickinson

Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee’s experience
Of clovers and of noon!

Dynamic Landscapes

Dynamic landscapes under the sea

whisper their siren call to me.

My spirit is gently coaxed away

on a briny breeze where kelp trees sway.

The King's Forest

The King’s Forest

I marvel, in awe of the majesty!

If I could but capture the grandeur I see!

And I am rewarded as if from on high,

by the image imprinted in my mind’s eye.

Alone with the sea

Alone with the sea